The Musketeers of Pig Alley

The Musketeers of Pig Alley
Directed by D. W. Griffith
Written by D. W. Griffith
Anita Loos
Starring Elmer Booth
Lillian Gish
Clara T. Bracy
Walter Miller
Music by Robert Israel
Distributed by General Film Company
Release dates
  • October 31, 1912 (1912-10-31)
  • November 5, 1915 (1915-11-05) (U.S.)
Running time
17 minutes (16 frames per second)
Country United States
Language Silent film
English intertitles

The Musketeers of Pig Alley is a 1912 American short drama film credited as the first gangster film in history. It is directed by D. W. Griffith and written by Griffith and Anita Loos. It is also credited for its early use of follow focus, a fundamental tool in cinematography.[1]

The film was released on October 31, 1912 and re-released on November 5, 1915 in the United States. The film was shot in Fort Lee, New Jersey where many other early film studios in America's first motion picture industry were based at the beginning of the 20th century.[2][3][4] Location shots in New York City reportedly used actual street gang members as extras during the film.

It was also shown in Leeds Film Festival in November 2008, as part of Back to the Electric Palace, with live music by Gabriel Prokofiev, performed in partnership with Opera North.


The film is about a poor married couple living in New York City. The husband works as a musician and must often travel for work. When returning, his wallet is taken by a gangster. His wife goes to a ball where a man tries to drug her, but his attempt is stopped by the same man who robbed the husband. The two criminals become rivals, and a shootout ensues. The husband gets caught in the shootout and recognizes one of the men as the gangster who took his money. The husband sneaks his wallet back and the gangster goes to safety in the couple's apartment. Policemen track the gangster down but the wife gives him a false alibi.




The Musketeers of Pig Alley is probably the first ever film about organised crime.

In his book The Movie Stars, film historian Richard Griffith wrote of the scene where Lillian Gish passes another woman on the street (pictured):

Griffith's camera in this scene happened to focus on the unforgettable face of the nameless girl

in the center of the shot- and a murmurous wave swept audiences at this point in the film whenever it was shown. No one knows what became of this particular extra, but such raw material, and such camera accidents, became the stuff of stardom later on."[5]

In fact, the girl is Dorothy Gish, Lillian's sister.

In the Cold Case episode Torn (Season 4.21) Lily sees the victim of a 1919 homicide in an homage to the scene of Lillian Gish passing another woman on the street (pictured).

See also


  2. Koszarski, Richard (2004), Fort Lee: The Film Town, Rome, Italy: John Libbey Publishing -CIC srl, ISBN 0-86196-653-8
  3. "Studios and Films". Fort Lee Film Commission. Retrieved 2011-05-30.
  4. Fort Lee Film Commission (2006), Fort Lee Birthplace of the Motion Picture Industry, Arcadia Publishing, ISBN 0-7385-4501-5
  5. The Movie Stars Richard Griffith Doubleday and Company Inc. 72-126382 Copyright 1970
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